Positive progress during BTCC test for EXCELR8 Motorsport
EXCELR8 Motorsport showed plenty of positives during two days of intensive running at its home circuit of Snetterton recently, fielding both of its MG6 GTs in the official British Touring Car Championship tyre test.
Across the two full days, which were run to an open pit lane format allowing each team freedom to conduct their own testing programmes, EXCELR8 managed to garner a substantial amount of data to help continue what has already been an impressive learning curve with the twin MGs.
Both drivers, Rob Smith and Sam Osborne, took part in the test and were joined by seasoned touring car racer Daniel Lloyd, who undertook some comparison and setup work for the team.
The first milestone was completed even before the test got underway, with EXCELR8 having to make major repairs to Smith’s chassis following his heavy crash during race two at Oulton Park, which damaged all four corners of his car. The team managed to repair the damage in just five days, reinforcing the squad’s technical ability.
Across the two days, each driver racked up substantial mileage around the three-mile Snetterton 300 Circuit, which represents the longest lap of the entire BTCC calendar. Combined, the two MGs completed 267 laps – equating to 801 miles of running – with Smith completing 134 tours in total, and Osborne 133.
Both cars did the majority of their times on the harder, medium-compound tyres as the squad worked to improve the balance and feel of the MGs for the drivers. So far this year the team has largely played it safe, opting for a setup more tuned toward understeer as both the drivers and engineers find their feet in the BTCC. The aim of the test was to introduce more overtseer to the cars, which can unlock more pace by allowing earlier throttle application.
BTCC cars are complex things, so there are almost infinite setting combinations to try and achieve a car that is responsive and agile without feeling constantly on the limit. The team opted to try as many different setup combinations as possible, cycling through suspension geometry, tyre pressure changes, differential settings, engine mapping and brake bias, with each driver adjusting to how the changes affect the balance of the car.
The net result was a gain of around half-a-second on Wednesday afternoon, meaning EXCELR8’s fastest time was just two seconds away from the outright quickest of the test – on a day when many teams opt to run their cars in experimental configurations, with additional turbo boost, no ballast and many on the faster soft Dunlop tyres.
The team’s data suggests the changes amount to a 0.6second deficit per mile to the fastest cars when on the same tyres. This highlights the team’s strong rate of improvement from the first round at Brands Hatch, where the margin was just over one second per mile around the 1.2-mile Indy Circuit.
EXCELR8 Team Manager Oliver Shepherd said he was happy with the results of the test, and the progress of the team and drivers at the mid-way point in the season.
“The two-day test was really, really good for us. The biggest key thing was the consistency lap-to-lap, on the same track and the same conditions so the drivers could get their seat time in and boost their confidence. The biggest hurdle both Sam and Rob have had so far is that they get 80 minutes of practice each weekend, and within that they have to fit in tyre scrubbing runs and brake setup work, and then they’re straight in to qualifying. That leaves very little time for them to just go out and drive and learn.
“Having Daniel Lloyd with us was also very useful. He used to race these cars and he represents a very good historical reference against where we have the MGs now. His feedback has been incredibly useful and we’ve found some good directions with the car. Plus Rob’s car ran faultlessly across the two days after the rebuild work, which says a lot about the technical team we have in place now.
“Being able to play with a few different setup ideas was so valuable, and having the time to quantify the results of each change so we truly know what’s good and what’s bad. So far the lap time deficit between us and the fastest cars has halved since the start of the season, and we have to be happy with that progress. The aim is to now continue that rate of improvement and we’re confident we can be pushing into the midfield before the end of the season.”
The British Touring Car Championship resumes at Snetterton over the weekend of August 3/4.